Sunday, November 18, 2007

These New-Fangled Machiney-Things

This blog originally launched as a venue to share my store stories- adventures of a 10-year, on and off career in retail.

As luck would have it, I haven't had to work retail in a while... and I'm even avoiding it this holiday season. (Ah, the temptation to deal with the hordes of angry, rushed shoppers... the people who want you to pick out books for everyone on their list... the ones who come in to a bookstore only once a year and don't know the difference between fiction and non-fiction.)

Nonetheless, I had an experience the other day.

I had to make a photocopy, blown up to twice its size, and was in the Staples shopping center, so I decided that would be easier than struggling with our aging desktop computer and the photocopy/fax/printer.


Office equipment and I don't get along. The most difficult job I ever had to do as an editorial assistant was make photocopies of the proofs for each of the magazines the company published.

So I figure I'll pay a little extra and let the girl behind the counter do it for me. She says she can't. I approach the self-service machine. It's jammed. I walk away and try the second one. This one just doesn't seem to be working.

"Can you help me with this?" I ask.

Then I laugh, "I just don't get along with office equipment! I'll probably jam it or break it or something. "

She points to a slot. "Just put your card in here."

"Um, what card?" I ask. In the past, you made your photocopies, then brought them to the cashier and paid for them.

She looks at me funny. "Visa, Mastercard, whatever..."

"Oh." I pause. "What if I want to pay cash?"

I'm making one copy. At most, this will cost 10 cents. I can't see putting 10 cents on my debit card.

She looks at me funny again. I feel like the person in the commercial who stops the entire line at the coffee shop because he wants to pay cash rather than "swipe it." Fortunately, no line is forming behind me.

"Well, then you put your money in this machine and you get a gift card to swipe."

I look at the machines. Cards are available in denominations of $1, $5, and $10 (probably higher amounts, too, but I don't stop to look.) "How much is this one copy going to cost?" I ask.

"Oh, about 7 cents."

I process this for a moment. I have to buy a card for $1, to make a 7 cent copy, at which point I will have to carry a 93 cent gift card in my wallet indefinitely. I don't shop at Staples often and hardly ever make photocopies. Besides, the odds of me remembering to use the 93 cent card next time I make a purchase... Yeah.

Now I become one of the customers I detest, asking questions I know the answer to, and asking the clerk to clarify what is clearly--well, implied--on the signage.

"So this 7 cent copy is going to cost me a dollar, no matter what?"

"You can't get the money back from the gift card, if that's what you mean, no. But you can use your charge card, instead."

I thank her for her time and walk out. Whatever happened to photocopy machines taking nickels and dimes?


wordsmith said...

I feel your pain! It's amazing how they can nickel and dime us...but won't take change. I think the only places with actual coin-operated copy machines are public libraries and universities...and we all know how well those copies turn out.

Lori said...

My university has very few coin-operated machines left on-campus. Instead, you put money on your student ID and swipe it. Fortunately, the ID can be used for tons of stuff and the money carries over from semester to semester. But, no, when you graduate, you don't get any remaining cash back.

Malissa said...

Good words.